Sunday, October 01, 2006

Art attack

Yesterday we excitedly set out for town with a day's worth of gallery hopping planned. We visited six exhibitions in total, all but two of which disappointed.

The Polish artist Jakub Julian Ziolkowski's surrealist landscapes and dreamscapes at our favourite gallery Hauser & Wirth on Piccadilly; the American Al Taylor's sculptures and drawings of his sculptures of shrunken heads and segmented fish at the Haunch of Venison; Fiona Tan's films of twin girls and found Japanese schoolgirl portraits overlayed by a colonial commentary at the gallery on Frith Street; and Zineb Sedira's photos and film taken of despairing and lonely residents passing time around the Port of Algiers. Though technically good, they all failed to engage me emotionally and I had the feeling I had seen work like these many times before.

Robert Mapplethorpe's photographic portraits of rock singer Patti Smith at Alison Jacques, on the other hand, were inspiring - in equal parts due to the gallery itself (an old, rambling, white-walled, creaky-wooden-floored terrace in Soho), the photographer's skill at capturing individual personalities, and the demented subject matter herself.

Also wonderful were Elisa Sighicelli's mesmerising nocturnal film footage of river life in Beijing at the Gagosian in Kings Cross. Projected onto four vast walls in a darkened space were night scenes from a camera panning slowing across shadowy houses and brightly lit warehouses, glittering restaurants and fleeting husks of passing boats. What drew the eye the most as the camera glided along were the multicoloured light reflections upon the water's dark surface - shimmering flashes of red and gold, undulating patterns of blue and green. A visual seduction.

We also saw, at the Barbican cinema, the wonderful movie Echo Park LA (also known as Quinceanera) set in the Mexican community in LA - one of the oldest areas of LA. As Magdalena's 15th birthday approaches, her life is complicated by the discovery that she's pregnant. Her preacher father kicks her out of her house and she goes to live with her never-married 87 year old great uncle and her gangster gay cousin. A funny and moving kitchen drama and coming-of-age story.

Flickr images of the real Echo Park, LA

For dinner we ate delicious prawn and coconut dumplings, chicken satay, beef massaman curry, mussels baked in a broth of Thai herbs, raspberry and chocolate souffle and lemon cheesecake with raspberry sorbet at Isarn - the wonderful Thai restaurant in Islington.

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